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Cities Are Removing Racist & Confederate Statues That Protesters Have Targeted

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, protesters went after racist symbols of America’s past, which prompted officials to remove several controversial statues.

The statue of controversial Philadelphia police commissioner Frank Rizzo was vandalized before being torn down/ Getty Images

Officials in several cities have removed Confederate statues and other controversial monuments with racist historical significance that protesters vandalized.

While waves of protests and civil unrest spread across the country over the death of unarmed Black man George Floyd and countless other Black men and women who were killed during encounters with police, protesters have targeted symbols of the Confederacy that serve as racist remnants of America’s past.

In Birmingham, Alabama, city officials began tearing down the five-story obelisk called the Confederate Soldiers & Sailors Monument on Monday night. The monument had stood in Linn Park for nearly 115 years. During the weekend’s protests following Floyd’s death, demonstrators vandalized the obelisk, along with another nearby statue of Confederate officer Charles Linn—both controversial symbols of the Civil War and the confederacy’s battle to reinstate slavery. 

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin pleaded with protesters to not destroy the obelisk so that officials could “finish the job” themselves. 

In Alexandria, Virginia,the United Daughters of the Confederacy moved to tear down another Confederate statue on Tuesday—a month earlier than planned, according to the Washington Post. The statue called “Appomattox” was of a Confederate soldier and sat in an intersection for more than 130 years. The early removal came in response to the demonstrations across the country.

The organization also cited the vandalized Confederate statues in neighboring Richmond as another reason for its early removal. Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said the removal of the statue is part of a larger effort to tell “both sides” of the Civil War through museums and other historical statues. 

“For a portion of our population, this statue was a symbol of an entire subjugation of a people,” Wilson told The Post. “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure all of Alexandria’s history is told.”

In recent years, symbols and statues dedicated to memorializing Confederate figures have been the subject of controversy. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least 114 symbols dedicated to the Confederacy were removed between 2015 and 2019. 

In Philadelphia, protesters also targeted a statue dedicated to a controversial police commissioner who worked in the city decades ago. City officials removed the 10-foot statue of Frank Rizzo on Wednesday morning after protesters tried to destroy it, according to CBS Philly. 

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said he was not a fan of the statue of Rizzo and agreed it was time for it to be torn down. Rizzo was a police commissioner in the 1960s and a two-time Mayor of Philadelphia. He was well-known as a racist figure who was intolerant of marginalized groups, inciting violence during the Civil Rights movement. His most infamous quotes include “vote white,” and “get their Black asses” about Black protesters.   

“The Frank Rizzo statue represented bigotry, hatred, and oppression for too many people, for too long. It is finally gone,” Kenney wrote on Instagram.